Sunday, May 29, 2011

Everyday living in Barcelona: Home (Spain)

Some of you may be wondering what it's been like for us living in Barcelona. It's a tough job to try to encapsulate the myriad of differences and similarities in a blog, but after 7 months, I will be attempting a perspective in this series.

In any large city, especially one couched between mountains and sea like Barcelona, housing is at a premium. Wages (for those 80% who do have work) have not kept up with cost-of-living, and most people live with their parents or rent a room in an apartment with 3 to 6 other people. Our main considerations were the dog and wanting to feel like we were really in the city. The rent on our 500 square foot apartment is brutal, and since we are foreigners, we got hit up for the typical 3 to 6 months' rent for a deposit. We live in the old city so it's a fifth floor (read: sixth floor, since Europeans don't start counting until the second one) walk-up. The advantages are being a 10 minute walk from the center (Plaza Catalunya) or the city's largest park (Ciutadella), and the streets around us look straight out of a chase scene from the Jason Bourne movies.

We are lucky. Our place is furnished in IKEA-ware, and our penthouse suite is awash in natural light most of the day (for which our dog-turned-sunbather Pepper is grateful) and gets a refreshing cross breeze my dad couldn't stop gushing about. We have a washer in a little outhouse on the balcony and the dizzying dryer lines to go with it (I have yet to hear of anyone in Spain having a dryer... even the people with swimming pools). Our kitchen is small, but not much smaller than in North Carolina, and amazingly for a European place, has full size appliances! Most fortunately, we have piped in gas. The common alternative is orange butane tanks, which have to be carried and refilled by the "butanos," men who wander the streets, banging on their wares like an audition for STOMP!

Sure, it was an adjustment to begin with, but with our pictures up on the walls, it feels like a pretty good home.
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